Personal Small Business Enterprise

Getting Started with Twitter for Your Small Business

Twitter is a social media network that many small businesses are using to both reach and engage with their customers. And it’s no wonder: Twitter has more than half a billion users, with anywhere between 170-million and 200-million of them active at least once a month and another 135,000 signing up every day, according to Paris-based analytics firm Semiocast. Between them, they send a staggering 400-million tweets a day — that’s nearly 5,000 tweets every second!

However, that sheer size can be overwhelming, and the network’s peculiar language of tweets, re-tweets (RTs) and hashtags can be a bit confusing for those businesses not yet taking advantage of this powerful engagement tool. In this post and two others to follow, I’ll lay out a step-by-step guide that details why and how you can get started on Twitter.

What is Twitter?
As mentioned, Twitter is a social media networking site. Often called a micro-blogging site, it lets users send and read short messages, called tweets, of up to 140 characters. Anyone can read public tweets but you have to register with the service to be able to send tweets of your own and to build up followers.

Is Twitter for you?
Like any marketing initiative, you should take some time to consider whether Twitter will be a useful tool for your business. Here are some of the things you should consider:

–        Think about what you’re trying to achieve. Twitter can be used to raise awareness of your brand, to generate new leads and to attract new customers. Many businesses find it a useful tool for customer service, retention and feedback.

–        Set a budget for your Twitter program. Access to Twitter might be free but it takes time and effort to be active on the site. In addition, you may wish to allocate marketing dollars to promote your business on Twitter. (I will look at this in more depth in a future post.)

–        Review the resources — human, content and contacts — you have available. Depending on the size of your business, you will require at least one person to manage your account. You will need a steady stream of interesting tweets so give some thought to where will they come from. And review existing contact lists that can be used to kick-start your community-building efforts.

–        Evaluate whether your audience is active on Twitter. If not, you’d be better off trying to reach them elsewhere.

–        Find out what is your competition doing. If competitors are active, this argues strongly in favour of you getting on board. If they’re not, it might be a great opportunity for you to get a leg up.

Setting up a Twitter account
1. Create a new account at Enter your name (or your company’s), an email address and a password. Your name will be displayed before your handle at the top of your profile. It can be up to 20 characters long, including spaces.

2. On the next screen, select your username. This is a unique name, or handle, that represents you on the network. Other users mention you and link to your account by preceding your username with an @ symbol. There is a 15-character limit, but you should make it as short as possible. Most businesses simply use their company name, but if it’s too long, or already taken, you’ll have to be more imaginative. Good ideas include combinations of your name and the company’s name, the company name and your community, or the company name and your industry. The idea is to make your account easily searchable and recognizable and to brand yourself on the channel.

3. Click “Create my account.” Congratulations. You have just joined the Twitter community.

4. In the next step, Twitter will give you the option to follow some friends, popular accounts and some brands. You can skip this step for now, if you wish. You can also choose to have Twitter search through your address book (if you use one that is supported on the service) to see which of your contacts are on Twitter, and you can then choose to follow them.

5. On the Profile tab, complete your Twitter profile.

a. Add a bio. Provide a good description of who you are and what you do in a way that convinces people to follow you. There is a 160-character limit. Use important keywords to help people find you in search, but use them naturally. Include a trackable link back to your website or to a specific landing page.

b. Add a profile picture. Most companies use their logo.

6. Add a header image. This is the larger image that sits behind your profile picture and bio. It should be a further extension of your company brand.  For reference purposes, you can visit the @Bell_Business Twitter account to see how Bell treats its profile picture and header image.

7. Add a design theme. This is the largest piece of virtual real estate on the channel. You can use one of Twitter’s own themes, build one using a service like Themeleon, or design and upload a custom background image. Bell’s Twitter pages all use the same, clean and spare background image made up of a piece of the company’s wordmark. I put a little additional contact information in mine, but still keep it pretty spare. Media outlets like The New Yorker and Life magazine tile images of their covers. And some brands use the extra space to promote specific events, an approach that keeps the background fresh and dynamic.

8. Start tweeting!

Do you have any additional tips to share? Let us know by using the comments section below.

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